“Poor payment, treatment and discrimination of private security workers, having experienced firsthand of its worse, made me come out of my comfort and use my intelligence, ideas and solutions to form private security workers’ union that will spearhead and fight for workers’ rights.”
Being a man of his words and determination, full of experience in the private security sector, Isaac GM Andabwa, the CEO and founder of the Kenya National Private security workers Union (KNPSWU), believes that the private security sector plays a big role in both the local and international security.
Over the time, the son of a Chief who was crowned by Nabongo Mumia; has overcome the dark world of hierarchy, fierce power, cartel hurdles and test of life to form a very strong and promising Union that has given the private security officers new hope of life after serving as a security guard just like any other profession, unlike in the past where anytime they were subjected to humiliation, discrimination and poor payment without any reference.
KNPSWU has gained strong authority, trust and civilization to the Kenya private security sector that has seen it become affiliated to COTU (K) and Uni-Global Union to cement its power, hence giving workers more bargaining strength to speak for their rights, conditions of work and privileges.
Since its inception, the Union has achieved tremendous ground and achievements including hiring more than 100 workers, serving at different union offices, across the country.
The Union has set proper structures and facilitation that has enabled it register up to 200,000 active members out of possible 500,000 registered private security officers in the country.
Besides, through collective bargaining (CBA), the union has addressed the workers most challenges with their employers like improved working hours, over time payment, sick leave, annual leave, due process of hiring and termination of workers contracts, discrimination, insurance covers among other good terms and conditions of engagement, whose fruits will be felt as time goes and CBAs gets more effective, and progressive.
Nevertheless, the private security union boss says the journey of compelling employers to sign CBAs has not been easy considering that different employers with different financial strengths and muscles, conditions, clients and preferences employ his members.
“Achieving hundred percent CBA is not easy, and cannot be be achieved overnight, but I assure you, we are heading in the right direction considering where we started from up to now.
We just need persistence, patience and steady improving strategies.”
Insecurity and emerging tactics being used by terrorists, has created an urgent need to discuss and implement laws that will allow private security officers to be armed instead of using the renown “Rungu” and “metal detector gadgets” that will never enable them to confront any danger or terrorist(s) before receiving back up from other security forces.
“In most of time, for example in the case of Dusit2, private security officers (guards) were the first people to be confronted by the terrorists.
I believe if these officers were armed, they could have clogged the terrorist from entering the premises or even killed them before they caused severe damage.
Arming guards isn’t a security menace but beneficial to the country to enhance security.
In some developed nations, security guards are highly trained just like police and highly respected as well armed to tackle any threat that comes across.
This is what we want to see in Kenya,” Bro. Isaac suggests.
CEO Africa heaved a misuse fear factor of the guns if granted, but the Union boss insisted that through their regulators office, they will come up with measures and condition in which a guard can be given a gun to carry among other precautions and therefore there is no need to worry.
However, the suggestion has not gone unchallenged, it is facing opposition from some quarters who thinks the move is pro-reactive than a solution making which might not be the right solution to insecurity.
Only time will tell which way the Government will take concerning arming the private security officers.
Many people may think the vibrant Trade Unionist is a fresh guy in the private security sector, but Mr. Andabwa worked as a guard since he cleared his secondary education in Kakamega high school.
In 1998, Bro. Isaac joined US embassy private security team, after thorough training.
During his service at the embassy, he learned and gained a lot of experience both work wise and lifestyle, including differentiating the feel of working in the embassy and being employed by the Government as the security officer.
Also during this time, he witnessed many police officers abandoning the Government service and join private security service, because the US embassy was paying better at the time; about Sh. 10,400 basic salary compared to Government GSU officers who used to get about Sh. 3,400 basic salary per month without any allowance.
The same year, terrorists bombed American Embassy in Kenya where most lives were lost as well injuries witnessed.
After the bomb blast dark day, the embassy saw there was dire need to train and improve its security personnel as well and equip them enough to easily tackle any security threats.
Bro. Andabwa was among the lucky few security guards that were given trained by the US Security experts as an SDT specialist focused on detecting terror activities, disarming, detecting suspicious activities and objects, safety measures among other intensive security training that later has helped him so much in understanding security, its vulnerability, expectations as well finding solutions.
In 1999, Mr. Andabwa felt that his vast experience in the security sector and leadership gift, will go to waste if he will not do something to improve lives of private security officers who at the time were famously known as “watchmen”, something he felt was not only foul but job inequity that was meant to weaken security officers as lesser beings and useless; yet they were guarding and protecting very valuable goods, services and people who neither appreciated their job or did discriminately.
Same year, the Kenyan Guards’ Union secretary General post was contested. The post attracted 12 contestants of which most of the leadership contestants were drawn from other business sectors who knew nothing or very little about guards and their welfare.
Mr. Andabwa was among the contestants and luckily he was elected unopposed twice during the election by delegates, while still working with KK Security at the US Embassy.
Conversely, over time, greed and corruption saw the guards suffering swell with no one to hear or fight for them.
This devil appetite saw internal leadership wrangles as well guard’s trust to the union tremendously decreasing hence creating space to exploit the guards, leaving them at their God’s mercy.
Being one of the affected guards, Mr. Isaac decided to mobilize guards in the year 2006, against mistreatment and exploitation by the greed leadership which proved to be just money minting organization with no will to support and stand by the guards to better their lives.
Upon registration of the new Kenya National Private Security Workers Union (KNSWU) for the private security officers, he was given temporary registration certificate that was strongly opposed both by the sector players and some few impunity beneficiaries in the government who didn’t like the idea that proved a big threat to their career and Union. By the time of registration, the company registrar Mr. William Langat was on leave and as soon as he resumed he immediately revoked the certificate awarded earlier.
Luckily, good connections from the former President Kibaki’s daughter, Miss. Judy Kibaki’s intervention saw them awarded the certificate once again in 2007.
This was his happiest moments that only lasted shortly. In 2008, KK Security, the company that contracted him as security guard, expelled him from his job that was the only source of income under the ground that he was using the position to campaign and do politics instead of concentrating to his job.
Things got more harder and hot when same year, he was arrested under allegation that he stole money from the guards kitty, but according to him, this was a move to warn him by ensuring that he will not contest for the union leadership.
He is grateful to God he was able to overcome all the hurdles and made it out stronger.
For the entire time after he was sacked, he remained jobless until he was able to secure a temporary where he was paid Sh. 300 per month.
A salary that was not able to sustain his family considering the city life where everything talks by money.
In 2010, Bro. Isaac saw the light of the day after hard work, pain and determination not to succumb to pressure, but give the best fight for a better tomorrow.
He took over the leadership and immediately embarked in making tremendous changes in the Union including disbanding a one-region branch based in Nyanza and replaced with new branches based across the country to ensure services are brought to the people on the ground unlike before.
This saw the Union gain more strength, support and trust from the members who are the private security officers. Also the same year, the union was affiliated to the country’s giant workers movement, COTU (K).
Since then, the rest is history. Over time, the Union is gaining ground across the country, fulfilling its agenda and mission to ensure private security officers gain more respect, justice, fair payment, treatment, over time payment, fair hearing ( in case of misconduct at work), insurance covers, leave and sick-leave among others.
At the moment, they have already recruited over 200,000 members out of possible 500,000 security guards in the country.
In addition, they are planning to come up with Kenya Private Security Training college where any person interested in security jobs, can join, get trained and equipped with security skills then awarded a certificate when they graduate; that he or she can use to be recruited as a private security officer across the globe.
This training will include gun handling, safety at work, workers job rights, job ethics, savings and empowerment among others.
The caliber of training will be something similar to Police College in Kiganjo according to the KNPSWU boss, with a Government accredited curriculum.
The Union has actively participated in agitating for reforms in the private security sector.
Through active partnership with like minded stake holders, the Union lobbied for the enactment of the Private Security Regulations Act of 2016.
The process was rigorous but ultimately H.E The President Uhuru Kenyatta accented to the act.
The Act establishes the Private Security Regulatory Authority, which will focus on offering regulations to the private security industry in Kenya.
CEO Andabwa believes that the Authority will ensure sanity is restored in the murky private security industry.
He concludes that the battle ahead is still huge, in ensuring the Act is fully followed, and all the private security workers in Kenya reach their desired “canaan”.
He clinches his fist as a solidarity signal of the trade unionists, with the words “Pamoja Twasimama” signifying unity among all private security officers in Kenya.